The Dutch politicians’ diplomacy during World War I has always garnered a lot of attention, unlike the influence of the war on the lives of average Dutch citizens. While Dutch citizens were going hungry, the government continued exporting potatoes.
The women of the Potato Riots were standing up for themselves, their families, and their communities. They fought for very concrete things, from the bottom up. Since there are no available sources for many of the women’s actions, a large part of their story is missing. The archives only offer reports from the mayor and the police. Now and then an anonymous woman is quoted in a newspaper article.
The ‘boezelaar’, a long white apron that women wore to protect their clothing, played a central role in the riots’ origins. The women stuck the potatoes they found on the ship docked at the Prinsengracht in their boezelaar. The word ‘boezelaar’ comes from the Dutch verb ‘boezelen’, meaning ‘to put in order’.
Along with textile artist Iva Jankovich, I am creating an installation where a new version of the boezelaar emphasises the women’s hero status.
We are working on a design, the shape of which will refer both to the classic boezelaar and to a superhero costume. In addition, we are researching options of printing or embroidering suitable designs onto the fabric. One possibility would be to embroider the route the women took from the Jordaan to the warehouses on the Rietlanden, where potatoes were stored for export. Another option would be to screenprint portraits of the women or to include lyrics from protest songs. In the first phase, we will be experimenting with various ideas, materials (fabrics), and (printing) techniques, before moving on to making the piece.